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Is the United States serious about Iran?

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 22, 2006 8:00 pm    Post subject: Is the United States serious about Iran? Reply with quote

Is the United States serious about Iran?

By: Amil Imani

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently asked Congress for $85 million to support pro-democracy groups inside Iran and also to assist Iranian groups outside Iran who oppose the Islamic regime in Tehran.

It is a very kind gesture from President George W. Bush’s administration, but this program will not change anything in Iran. And it is not likely the $85 million (if Secretary Rice indeed receives it) will be used effectively and wisely.

Yet, there is no denying Bush’s intent of support. In his 2005 state of union address, he again pledged his support for the Iranian people: “And to the Iranian people, I say tonight: As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you.” A Tehran University student responded, “As long as President Bush stands with the Iranian people, the Iranian people will stand with him and with America."

In Iranian polls, Bush won the 2004 election by a landslide, even though in America, Bush won by only a few hundred votes. Today, Bush is sinking in American polls, but his popularity continues to climb in Iran.

Persian speaking people have found a friend who says he cares about them. But, at this point, we must ask how serious is President Bush about Iran? Is it all words, with no action?

For five years, President Bush has consistently supported the Iranian people in his state of the union addresses. But it’s been simply a big carrot on a long stick. Or, as they say in Texas, it’s all hat and no cattle. While we have supported the president’s efforts to liberate Iraq and bring democracy to the region, we know the key to peace in Iraq and the region is in the hands of the Iranian people. As long as they are powerless to overthrow the Islamic terrorist regime in Iran, Iraq will never see the light of democracy.

America is spending over $200 million a day for the war in Iraq. In contrast, an $85 million proposal to bring change in Iran, administered over five years or more, is utterly unrealistic. After all, we are talking about the Islamic Republic of Iran—"the world's most active state sponsor of terrorism," according to the U.S. State Department.

So, how do we understand the money problem?

According to the Iranian Studies Group, an independent academic organization at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), more than one in four Iranian-Americans hold a master's or doctoral degree, the highest rate among 67 ethnic groups studied. Iranians are among the most highly educated people in U.S. and annually contribute over $600 billion into the U.S. economy.

It would be a travesty for the Iranian opposition groups to accept a mere $85 million while the Iranian-Americans are such large contributors to the U.S. economy.

Yet, Iranian-Americans have not given big money to the cause of liberating their fellow Iranians in Iran, and the U.S. government hasn’t given any significant amount for the eradication of the world terrorist regime—the Islamic Republic of Iran. So, we’re back to square one.

But consider this: the United States holds billions of dollars of Iranian assets in U.S. banks. Why not use this financial source to support the Iranian opposition groups who will actively seek regime change in Iran? This money must be returned to its legitimate heirs, the Iranian people, inside Iran and outside Iran.

If the U.S. is serious about a regime change in Iran, if the U.S. is hoping for a democratic form of government in Iran, and if the U.S. truly advocates a broader democracy in the Middle East, the White House must turn the Iranian assets over to all the Iranian opposition groups who want democracy in Iran. After all, Iranians know Iranian mentality better than any foreign governments.

It is time for the US government to get serious about regime change in Iran. Bombing Iran will not help the cause. In fact, it will probably create either civil war, or some kind of desperate, lethal unity inside Iran. The more effective way to achieve regime change is to spend the Iranian assets in the right way.

We can create a secular, democratic Iranian nation with our own Iranian money, and obliterate the venomous theocratic regime in Iran—which the majority of Iranians consider to be alien occupiers. The clock is ticking and the majority of Iranians want to be free from the oppressors now. The Bush administration must stop the useless, wasteful bureaucracy and get down to business of regime change, immediately.

Amil Imani is an Iranian-born American Citizen and pro democracy activist living in the United States of America. Imani is a columnist, literary translator, poet, and novelist who speaks out for the struggling people of his native land, Iran. His website is www.amilimani.com

Last edited by Amil on Mon Apr 24, 2006 11:47 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 22, 2006 11:35 pm    Post subject: Kenneth R. Timmerman, Reply with quote

Kenneth R. Timmerman,

In the Monty Python skit, a man brings a parrot back to the store where he purchased him half an hour earlier, complaining that the parrot is dead.

The shop owner insists it must be resting, but the man says he discovered that the only reason that parrot was sitting up at all was because it had been nailed to the perch in its cage.

Like the shop owner, the State Department is promoting a long-dead policy of supporting “moderates” in Tehran, under the guise of promoting “reform” and “change.”

Not only is State making a monumental mistake: it has fallen for one of the oldest tricks of Iran’s clerical elite.

Over the past three years, President Bush has accumulated a tremendous capital of goodwill with the Iranian people because of his outspoken support for their struggle for freedom.

The president has made clear in private meetings with Iranian exiles that his public statements were not mere rhetoric. He really meant it when he called Iran part of an “axis of evil” in his 2002 State of the Union speech.

He meant every word he uttered after the regime disqualified some 2,400 candidates for parliamentary elections in February 2004 and he said, “The United States supports the Iranian people’s aspiration to live in freedom, enjoy their God-given rights, and determine their own destiny.”

He meant it when he spoke to the Voice of America’s Persian service on August 17, 2004. “There is a significant diaspora here in the United States of Iranian-Americans who long for their homeland to be liberated and free. We’re working with them to send messages to their loved ones and their relatives…say[ing], ‘Listen, we hear your voice, we know you want to be free, and we stand with you in your desire to be free.’”

And he meant it again when he addressed the Iranian people during his State of the Union speech this year. “Our nation hopes one day to be the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran.”

Somehow, that message hasn’t made it over to Foggy Bottom.

At the State Department, where Condoleeza Rice has admirably pledged to spend $85 million this year to support the pro-freedom movement in Iran, careerists have taken over the show and are steering her in the wrong direction.

Of that $85 million, nearly $50 million has been tentatively ear-marked to expand the Voice of America and the Persian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Both radios need to improve the quality of their broadcasts and, especially, their political content, before they deserve another dime in taxpayer funding. But that is a story I will treat in depth in a future column.

The rest of the money is being spent on a variety of programs led by former Tehran regime officials, student leaders, and U.S. academics who believe the Tehran regime can be reformed, but does not need to be changed.

This is sweet music to the ears of Iran’s ruling mullahs and to Iran’s boy president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. READ MORE

They all want “reform.” After all, Ahmadinejad campaigned for president on a platform of “reform.” He was going to drive out corrupt mullahs, such as the “reformist” Rafsanjani, and reform Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Mohsen Sazegara was one of the founders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps. He fell out with the regime in the late 1980s, published a series of reformist newspapers, and was jailed for nearly two years.

He came to the United States last year at the invitation of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and with the blessing of the Department of State.

Sazegara’s break with the regime was sincere. But since coming to the United States, he has teamed up with “reformers” such as Akbar Atri, Ali Afshari, and Ramin Ahmadi of Yale University, who have gotten the lion’s share of the “pro-freedom” moneys from the State Department.

Instead of providing seed money to a home-grown pro-democracy movement, State Department has sponsored Atri to go on a tour of U.S. college campuses, and is now talking of providing him with a radio station to broadcast his message of “reform” into Iran. They have also thrown money at Ramin Ahmadi by the million – initially, to sponsor a data base of Iranian human rights abuses (something that a number of other groups had already pulled together privately over the past decades, on shoestring funding).

It was Ahmadi who sponsored the ill-fated “non-violent training workshops” in Dubai that backfired last year, sources familiar with the program told me.

The idea of training Iranian activists in the weapons of non-violent conflict is an excellent one. But as reported by the Washington Post, the problem with the Dubai workshops was the choice of people who were selected to attend.

They were reformers, not activists seeking to grow a pro-democracy movement.

They didn’t want to change the regime in Tehran; they wanted to make it stronger, just as Iran’s reformist clerics have sought to do. When they found out that the State Department – and not Yale University - was financing the workshops, they fled back to Tehran, where they denounced the United States publicly.

Roozbeh Farahanipour was one of the leaders of the student rebellion at Tehran University in July 1999. He remembers Ali Afshari well.

“When we tried to get students to take the demonstrations from the university to the streets of Tehran, Afshari came along behind us in a truck with a sound system, shouting at the crowd to not follow us because we were against the revolution,” Farahanipour recalls.

That is one of the tricks the regime likes to play. It periodically gives leash to “reformers” and allows them to publish newspapers and speak out against regime excesses, for as long as they don’t cross the red line and demand true freedom and a change of regime.

Several authentic, grass roots movements for change in Iran do exist. One is led by Farahanipour and is called Marzeporgohar, or Iranians for a Secular Republic.

Another is the Iran Nation’s Party (sometimes referred to as the Iran People’s Party in the West). It was led by Darioush Forouhar until he and his wife were brutally hacked to death by regime thugs in Tehran in November 1998. The current leader is Khosrow Seif.

Yet another authentic pro-democracy group worthy of U.S. funding is the Iran Referendum Movement. Prompted initially by Sazegara’s campaign that collected 35,000 signatures on the Internet in favor of an internationally-monitored referendum on the regime, the movement now has chapters in 35 cities worldwide who sent 250 delegates to a founding convention in Brussels, Belgium, this past December.

They elected a 15-member Central Committee, who in turn selected a 7-member Executive Board. Although they have extensive networks inside Iran, they can’t seem to get the eyes and ears of the State Department.

But because the Referendum Movement is calling for an end of the Islamic Republic, the groups being funded by the State Department have all refused to have anything to do with it. The State Department’s choices are reformers, not revolutionaries.

Sazegara himself told me last year that the reform movement was “dead.” And yet, the State Department, through lack of imagination or its atavistic tendency toward blind man’s bluff, refuses to recognize it.

Like Monty Python’s dead parrot, the State Department Iran “experts” have nailed the reform movement to the perch, and keep selling it again and again, pretending that it’s alive.

But no matter how they dress it up, it’s still a dead parrot.

Or, as the Monty Python character put it, “This parrot is no more!… 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!”

Alas, not in Washington.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2006 12:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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